Taylor ham vs. pork roll: NJ distributor says one name is ‘correct’
Over more than 30 years, it may be the most debated topic in the history of New Jersey 101.5's talk shows: Taylor ham vs. pork roll.
For almost two decades of that time, one business has been shipping the various brands of the Garden State's signature processed meat product to senior citizens, members of the military, and others to whom it's not readily available.
And as much as it pains Kate Kelly, owner of Jersey Pork Roll and a North Jersey native, to say it, only one term is correct.
"The proper answer is, the legal name is pork roll," she said. "Whether it's Case or Taylor or Trenton, it is called pork roll."
Kelly means "legal name" literally, as the salty slices were a federal case — that's case with a lower-case "c" — more than a century ago, involving the Trenton-based company founded by John Taylor.
"There was a Food and Drug (Administration) act that determined that it wasn't actually a ham, so they had to come up with a new name and they called it pork roll," Kelly said. "The argument is so old."
Jersey Pork Roll has offered Trenton Pork Roll since launching in 2004, and added Case's in 2016.
In fact, Case's answering machine gives out Jersey Pork Roll's phone number for people who want to order direct from their facility, instead of getting it in the supermarket.
Kelly's company also sells Sabrett hot dogs, the Philly-area specialty known as scrapple, and salt water taffy, fudge, and peanut butter chews out of Atlantic City.
But it's the product made by Taylor Provisions that seems to be its most controversial, and its persistence in one part of the state is so longstanding that it may be impossible to determine just why.
"It doesn't say 'Taylor Ham' on the package and it hasn't in over 100 years, but it seems North Jersey's still sticking to their way, which is to call it Taylor ham. But South Jersey's actually correct. It is pork roll," Kelly said.
Things get pretty heated over on Jersey Pork Roll's Facebook page, and over its phone lines, according to Kelly.
"We still get phone calls quite a bit over someone wanting to know what's the real story, settle a bet or a bar argument or something," she said. "We've had spouses arguing over it."
But there it is. "Pork roll" may never sound right to some, but it's right in the eyes of U.S. food law.
Now, the next question: Is Jersey Pork Roll, located in Middlesex Borough, part of Central Jersey?
(Messages left for this story with the Taylor Provisions Company and Case's Pork Roll were not returned.)
Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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